Whether for business or pleasure, lunch in Los Angeles doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, there are several options for less than $10.
Think the only way to cut down on the cost is to bring it in a brown bag, find a fast food value menu of regret or just skip it altogether? Think again Angelenos. Our fair city has tons of midday grub options at affordable prices and they don’t involve a drive through. With a few simple tricks and a little research, the indulgence of restaurants doesn’t have to be a drain on your wallet. You can save money without sacrificing the experience by knowing where to go:
- Join the club. Many places have loyalty or punch card programs, and if you are eating out a lot, these can add up quickly and you could score three or four free lunches every month.
- Split the difference. With large portions, à la carte add-ons and combo specials all over the place, whether you’re dining with a co-worker or a date, look at the menu together and see if there are some menu items that you want to team up on, or even literally split down the middle.
- Make it special. Many places have weekly specials, some every day of the week. Some will even offer a two-for-one option, so keep an eye out and plan your lunch dates accordingly.
Check out this list of area favorites for an affordable lunch and see if your favorite spot made the cut.
Pink’s Hot Dogs
709 N. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
If you’re hankering for a chili dog or two and you want to gobble down the best the City of Angels has to offer, head for Pink’s, thriving in Los Angeles for more than seven decades. While appearances bely an ordinary looking establishment that’s not much more than a freestanding hot dog hang out where diners line up cafeteria style, the legendary place Paul and Betty Pink built back in the late 1930s is nothing but that with regard to its fare. The dogs are affordable, and come in 30 different varieties (try the regular chili dog with mustard and onions for $4.45 or the Guadalajara dog with relish, onions, tomatoes and sour cream for four bucks). Top that off with a Dr. Brown’s cream soda for $1.90. A Hollywood institution, Pink’s has fans in high places, from celebs like Betty White and Steve Martin to chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay. Back in his day, Michael Jackson was fond of this famous hot dog stand, as was Marlon Brando.
The Apple Pan
10801 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Nothing is more American than apple pie, except perhaps a burger. Happily, The Apple Pan offers both, but you may have to choose between the two if you want to stick to spending a 10 spot and nothing more. However, digging for loose change will get you both, topped off by an iced tea priced at $1.45. Dining is somewhat communal since all customers sit at a long, curved counter surrounding the kitchen on comfy red retro seats that swivel. Pies, including apple as well as pecan and sometimes strawberry cream, are made on the premises and are served al la mode for an extra $2.
2056 Hillhurst Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Yuca’s may just be a small hut to passersby, but to those who have already indulged in this beloved family-run establishment, this place is so much more. In fact, the simple food stand that thrives in a Los Feliz parking lot has been the focus of attention by Mexican fare aficionados for nearly four decades. Your best bet if you’re feeling famished during the middle of the day is the so-called crazy burrito — a meat, bean, cheese and rice staple enhanced by avocado, sour cream and the house salsa — all for $8.50. Top that off with a raspberry iced tea and afterwards, call time out for a satiated siesta.
Mandarin Noodle House
701 W. Garvey Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Pan-fried pot stickers, boiled dumplings and slurp-worthy noodles, handmade of course, are enjoyed in budget-savvy Mandarin Noodle House. The 25-year-old restaurant is located in Monterey Park, a neighborhood popular with Asian Americans with food that rivals and even surpasses some of the same fare found in nearby Chinatown. This space may be modest but its menu is in the star category, especially so for cheap eats served in abundant quantities for less than 10 bucks that some say is as good as this cuisine gets, even in Taiwan. Note: Prepare to share.
Philippe’s The Original
1001 N. Alameda St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Sawdust on the floor, shared wooden tables, a crowd that includes plenty of regulars and the smell of coffee so strong you’ll want a cup even if you don’t typically drink caffeine defines Philippe’s, home to the French dip sandwich and a downtown Los Angeles landmark located next to Union Station since 1908. All can be had while sticking to a $10 lunch budget, from beef to pork to ham to lamb to turkey. Add a few cents extra for cheese (American, Swiss, jack, blue or cheddar) and you’ll still have enough money left over for that coffee you were smelling when you walked in the door. A cup costs a mere 45 cents, a real deal from a restaurant that will turn the uninitiated into regulars in no time.
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Los Angeles freelance travel writer Jane Lasky, contributes to publications such as Travel + Leisure, Vogue and Esquire. Her weekly sojourning column ran in 40 newspapers for 20 years. Jane is anything but an accidental tourist. Check out her articles on Examiner.com.